Punk band to celebrate 24th anniversary with Whidbey show

Potbelly, featuring founding members Jason Rodger and Ken Ball, will perform Jan. 18 in Langley.

One of Whidbey Island’s longest-lasting punk rock bands is hoping to inspire a new generation of angst-y teenagers.

“The (punk) scene will build up again, just need new venues and new bands,” said Jason Rodger, a founding member of and vocalist for Potbelly. “Not just us old bastards.”

Because of this, Rodger said he’s “stoked” about the band’s 24th anniversary show Jan. 18 at the Machine Shop in Langley.

Rodger was 17 years old when he, Ken Ball, Ryan Thompson and Curtis Jay formed the punk band 24 years ago. Other members have come and gone, but Rodger and Ball, a bassist and singer, have remained a constant in the act that has over 100 releases. They also tour frequently. After 10 years in existence, the members have set up nearly annual anniversary shows since.

The free Machine Shop show is special to Rogers because it’s not in a bar. All ages can attend.

“Right now, there’s some kid thinking what I was, they’re mad there’s no scene and they just have to do something about it,” Rodger said.

Both he and Ball said they’ve witnessed the punk scene on Whidbey rise and fall multiple times since they formed in 1995. They both indicated a major problem is a lack of places to perform, but there also seems to be a lack of musicians trying to do so.

“I’ve been through a few cycles with this sort of thing,” Ball said. “It’s time for some new excitement about having music around.”

Ball said he doesn’t think it has to be just music: Showing youth that it’s fun to have a creative outlet can have a positive impact. As a teenager, Rodger said he had a tendency to get into trouble when he didn’t have an outlet.

Music is what came naturally to him; it was somewhere he felt he belonged. He hears melodies everywhere, he said, pointing out the rhythm of a nearby fan. He called it both “torturous and a blessing.”

“For me, music is embedded in me in such a way that I can’t escape it,” Rodger said.

The band’s longevity and productivity wouldn’t be possible without this passion. But Ball said he and Rodger’s ability to get along together is what has kept Potbelly around.

“It’s a lot of work getting stuff together, writing songs and practicing,” he said. “I don’t think that would happen unless we were good at being around each other.”

Today Ball and Roger are joined by guitarist and singer Christen Ogden, guitarist Joe Neverkwitz and drummer Justin Bone. The band just finished recording 25 songs for its newest album, which features Ron Reyes of Black Flag’s vocals in some songs. Potbelly plans to go on tour in the summer.

Each band member has a day job to support their music habit. No longer teenagers, they also have families to consider while in the recording studio or touring the nation.

Rodger, who has a 16-year-old son, said it can be a difficult balancing act at times. Some days are harder than others, but his family continues to be supportive of his punk-rock lifestyle.

He said he’d probably become “unpredictable” if his art was suppressed. His music defines him.

“We’re all addicts,” he said. “Music is our addiction. … I’m sure my family appreciates that I’m not shooting up heroin, and I’m playing guitar instead.”

If you go

Whidbey’s own Potbelly will perform a 24th anniversary show 8 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Machine Shop, 630 Second St., Langley. Free. All ages welcome. Call 425-367-3319.

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